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Commentary: Skipping UN General Assembly is bad policy for Jakarta



So why isn’t the Indonesian leader in New York?

Jokowi’s distaste for geopolitical theatre is well-known, especially compared with his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and while his personal appeal has opened doors overseas, he has tended to focus on investment benefits. 

In analyst and former journalist Ben Bland’s book on the Indonesian leader, a Jakarta official puts it well: “Jokowi’s view would be, why do I have to go to the United Nations, there’s no money there and in fact we have to pay them.” An inward-looking approach not so unusual, as Bland, now at Chatham House in London, points out, in the context of Southeast Asia today.

Yes, in his early years, the president had good reasons to concentrate on the home front – without an elite background or military ties, he needed to build a power base. 

But his second term, now supported by a broad coalition, was supposed to be the moment to look further afield. That hasn’t happened. While there have been creditable efforts, as with the visits to Kyiv and Moscow, they have mostly fizzled out, suggesting the projection back home really did matter as much if not more than the outcome.

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